Higher education visionary, passionate advocate for the humanities, professor, scholar and leader, Vartan Gregorian specializes in history, but his legacy is promoting a deeper appreciation of the role of higher education in society.
Born in Iran of Armenian parents, Gregorian earned a bachelor’s degree in history and humanities at Stanford University in two years, graduating in 1958. He went on to complete a doctorate at Stanford and serve in a variety of teaching and administrative posts at different institutions, becoming provost at the University of Pennsylvania in 1978. He resigned from that position to become president of the New York Public Library, which he restored to fiscal and institutional health during his eight years at the helm.
As president of Brown University, he instituted the President’s Lecture Series, presided over the building of a residence quadrangle that now bears his name, taught classes and directed a successful capital campaign while leading Brown to international prominence. He also served as a trustee for Brandeis from 2006 to 2010.
In his current position as president of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, Gregorian leads one of the nation’s most thoughtful grant-making institutions focused on “doing real and permanent good in the world.” There, he has worked tirelessly to advocate for higher education as an essential element of a civil society.
The author of multiple works on Islam and Afghanistan, he has received numerous fellowships and is on the boards of the Institute for Advanced Study and the National September 11th Memorial and Museum. He is a recipient of the highest civilian award in the United States, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, as well as the National Humanities Medal, the American Academy and the Institute of Arts and Letters’ Gold Medal for Service to the Arts, and the Ellis Medal of Honor.
Honorary Degree Citation
Your leadership has shaped the role of higher education in society and demonstrated the importance of teaching and scholarship in the humanities to a broad audience. As provost and president of two of America’s great universities, you demonstrated that leadership and scholarship are noble goals that can be pursued simultaneously. As president of the New York Public Library, you helped strengthen and expand an institution dedicated to preserving the memories of humankind and making them available to all who seek knowledge. At the Carnegie Corporation of New York, you have shown that thoughtful philanthropy can help address society’s greatest challenges.
Your service to Brandeis University as a trustee came at an important time in our institution’s history. We are proud to call you a member of the Brandeis family and now to recognize you with our highest honor.